What an awful start to a week! We played again on Monday night, fell behind early, and were never really in the game. Our start against their zone was good, and we had some good possessions and good shots early. Our post hit a couple nice shots and a really nice hook. For some reason, after a couple possessions, we started to throw away the ball against a three-quarter court press. Most of the time, we made the right decision, we just threw a pass 20-feet over a teammate’s head or bounced the ball at his feet. We threw over the top to create a 2v1 and then threw away the pass rather than finishing. Once we got down, we started to hurry a little more and things devolved from there.
Worse, maybe, was that we did not have practice on Tuesday to fix anything prior to our next game. Luckily, we played a little better in the next game and won by 10 against a team we had played even the first time around. We had a 17-point lead and opportunities to distance ourselves, but we missed free throws and lay-ups, and did not finish defensively.
We had a good practice on Thursday. I tried a new 4v4 drill where the only player who was allowed to dribble was the player who I passed to. I explained that I wanted to focus on two things: (1) offensively, I wanted to practice moving the ball; once we create a small advantage, I want to keep the ball moving until we create the open shot that I want; (2) defensively, I wanted to emphasize stopping the initial penetration.
I stopped the play several times to show how one simple on-ball screen or dribble penetration disorganized the defense, but we took a selfish shot instead of moving the ball to the wide open player. Defensively, it really allowed us to gain some confidence trapping the ball screen, which a couple of our guys do really well in practice, though we often are too late in games.
I did not tell the offense or defense how they had to play. One team came out in a 2-2 zone and the two players ran at the first person to receive the ball to take the ball out of their hands. I liked the creativity, and it helped to create situations that we need to practice.
On Friday, we were short players because a player took off for vacation and others had end of semester things to finish. We lifted and started practice late. We focused more on transition and played some Rabbit (2v2 and 3v3). We also played 5v5 – score/stop/score. We focused more on shooting and boxing out, as those are two of our weaknesses still. We spent probably 30 minutes shooting. I also added new passing drills (7v5) because we do not see the whole court; we tend to keep our vision in one direction rather than finding the most open player.
On Saturday, the intention was to play some 1v1 and focus on defending after a closeout. We started in help position and defended after a skip pass. I tried out a new finishing drill attacking a help defender that is rotating from the weak side. It did not work as well as I had hoped. We miss a lot of shots on the baseline drive because we try to spin or do something to avoid a help defender rather than trying to finish strong with a jump stop. Defensively, we’re often a step slow to rotate to the drive because we have poor vision of the ball and our man. I had hoped that the drill would work on these two things, but the timing was poor and it was too artificial.
I had planned to play 5v5 and work on our zone offenses, as our next two opponents play almost exclusively zone. Only 9 players showed up for practice and one was injured in our first drill, leaving 8 players. The effort and concentration was poor, so I ended practice and cancelled our Monday practice.
More than half of the team are football players, so they take vacations during basketball season so as not to miss football season or spring football. It is disappointing, but it is what it is, and the varsity team deals with the same problems.
I am starting to question the competitive cauldron and playing everyone. I am worried that it is creating complacency in players to know that they will play regardless of their practice performance and effort. At the beginning of the season, I did not worry about us playing hard; we probably played too hard and committed too many fouls because of our intensity and speed of play. Since the winter vacation, we have not regained the same type of focus and intensity. A couple players who took vacations have not returned to the same intensity and conditioning as prior to the break.
I also am trying to incorporate novel drills and games to emphasize various skills. I tend to stick to a couple drills because I do not like to explain the drill – I want to focus on the skills. For instance, I want to focus on passing – creating a passing lane, seeing the most open player, stepping into the pass, looking the defense away, etc – as opposed to explaining that the passing drill is played to this many points with these rules, etc. etc. However, I am wondering if doing the same 8-10 drills each day lacks enough novelty to maintain the players’ interest and curiosity. As I try to get more specific with the drills, I am trying to add some novelty too. Almost every time I have introduced a new game, the players have adapted to it and enjoyed it, but after a couple days, they lose the enthusiasm. I probably should have picked up on this earlier, but I am trying to find new ways to constrain the games to focus on skills and add novelty to the practices.
We only have one game this week, and we need to focus on the details.
By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League